Award-winning Getty photographer points the lens at Seattle to illustrate the problems that plague many cities

In an aerial view, a homeless camp, known informally as “Dope Slope,” is littered with trash and tents near downtown Seattle on March 12. The city government is currently working to remove such encampments from shared spaces throughout Seattle. (John Moore/Getty Images photo)

Over a more than 30-year professional career in photojournalism, John Moore has documented the struggles of people in 70 countries on six continents. He has covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the Ebola epidemic in West Africa; the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the US; and for many years he gave a human face to the issue of immigration in the US and Latin America.

Photographer John Moore. (Courtesy of John Moore)

Moore has been a senior photographer and special correspondent for Getty Images of Seattle for 17 years. He previously worked primarily for The Associated Press, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for the Iraq War. He has worked internationally for 17 years, in Nicaragua, India, South Africa, Mexico, Egypt and Pakistan, and has won five World Press Photo awards, including Photo of the Year 2019 for the iconic image ‘Crying Girl on the Border’ .

Last week, Moore came to Seattle to focus his lens on the city, capturing how Seattle is dealing with its own issues, including homelessness, the opioid epidemic, crime and pandemic recovery.

“My goal as a photojournalist was to show what these challenges look like,” Moore told GeekWire. “I don’t see my role in promoting policy solutions to complicated problems, but in documenting what I see.”

His first visit to the city for photo coverage came two years ago, in March 2020, when Seattle was “ground zero” as COVID arrived in the US

“Seattle gave a glimpse of what the rest of the nation would soon see,” Moore said of that time. “The tragedy at the Life Care Center in Kirkland was an example of that, as well as seeing office workers drain downtown Seattle, leaving the city looking like a ghost town long before other American cities.”

Moore returned to Seattle after two years and created a series of diptychs (below) set in certain places around the city, showing what certain scenes looked like in 2020 and then again almost exactly two years later.

Top left, Seattle’s most popular tourist attraction, the Pike Place Market, virtually empty of customers on March 10, 2020, and again on March 9, 2022, bottom left, as the market was again a popular attraction as Washington State was due to its mandate for remove inner masks.
Top right, a cleaning crew don protective gear before entering the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, on March 12, 2020, as the suburban Seattle nursing home became an epicenter for coronavirus deaths in the U.S. Bottom right, cars fill the lot of the house on March 10, 2022. (John Moore/Getty Images Photos)

Moore, living with his family in Stamford, Conn. lives, is on the road about a third to half of the year. He said the problems Seattle faces are difficult, but not entirely unique. Nationally, many boroughs have been slow to recover after office workers went home to work remotely and businesses that relied on those workers suffered.

Moore’s visit came at the same time as the Downtown Seattle Association released its annual State of Downtown report and held an event to discuss the issues facing Seattle’s urban core. An increase in crime is the most pressing concern with tech companies and workers leaving the center for good or debating whether to return.

“The urban crime wave is also a national phenomenon, although it is more violent in some cities and more related to theft in others,” Moore said. The New York Times, for example, reported on nine mass shootings in the US over the weekend that highlight the ongoing crime wave in the country.

“There are so many factors that came together during the pandemic, including the 2020 protests and what came out of that,” Moore said. “How these combined to exacerbate Seattle’s pre-existing challenges has been debated endlessly locally — and, we know, has been addressed by voters.”

Seattle police arrest a woman who was caught driving a stolen car full of stolen goods in Seattle on March 10. Like many cities in the United States, Seattle is experiencing a crime wave, with an increase of more than 20% and a record number of shootings last year alone. (John Moore/Getty Images photo)

Medical personnel treat a multiple gunshot victim in the emergency room at Harborview Medical Center on March 9 in Seattle. (John Moore/Getty Images photo)

There is also much debate in Seattle about the affordability crisis and homelessness and to what extent the city’s technological boom is responsible for the worsening of the situation.

Moore’s images of tents, trash, and people in crisis — against the backdrop of a growing city — illustrate what many in Seattle see and react to every day in downtown, the I-5 corridor and many neighborhoods.

“The wealth gap between rich and poor is not specific to Seattle,” Moore said. “Yes, it’s true that tech wealth is a category all its own, visually contrasting with tents on the street, but there are versions of this all over America — and worse in the developing world.”

A homeless man checks on a friend who passed out after smoking fentanyl at a Seattle homeless camp on March 12. According to a recent report commissioned by Seattle City Councilor Andrew Lewis, the COVID-19 pandemic put excessive pressure on the city’s shelter system and delayed funds for new housing, leading to an increase in homelessness. (John Moore/Getty Images photo)

Moore believes that the residents of Seattle have a general tendency towards friendliness, which generally makes them more aware of the differences that exist within the city. But he said it was heartbreaking to see so many people caught up in not only homelessness but also a serious opioid addiction that is very difficult to escape alive.

But within that community, he witnessed humanity and kindness.

“There are some beautiful people within the homeless community who care for each other with tenderness, even under difficult circumstances,” Moore said. “I took one picture [above] of a man checking on another after he passed out smoking fentanyl in an encampment.

“That moment touched me deeply and I feel privileged to have captured that image.”

See more photos of John Moore on his Instagram feed.

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